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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Jan 7, 2013

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the offseason we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

I was certainly proud of our season. That being said, I think Saturday night’s playoff game showed us just how valuable Christian Ponder is to this team. I’ve been a supporter of him since Day 1, and I really couldn't believe how many people wanted to pull the plug on him midway through the season. However, this makes me even more excited for next year! Hopefully Ponder can make it to the end of the season healthy!
-- Aaron D.
Texarkana, TX

I believe the Vikings learned a lot about Ponder during the 2012 season, but the book is not entirely written on him yet; there is still more to learn. He certainly played well at the beginning of the season in guiding the Vikings to a 4-1 start while Adrian Peterson worked his way back into the mix. Then Ponder finished playing great over the final four weeks of the season, leading the Vikings on a four-game winning streak to qualify for the playoffs. In between, there were some ups and some downs, which you expect from a quarterback in his first year. My ultimate takeaway on Ponder in 2012 is that he’s shown that he can be a starter at the NFL level, and he’s earned the right to be the team’s starter entering the offseason.

I’m excited to watch GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier continue to build this offense up around Ponder by adding more talent at several positions. The Vikings clearly have some playmakers already on the roster, but there’s nothing wrong with adding more talent, regardless of position.

As for Webb, I think it’s important to temper the criticism of him coming off of Saturday’s loss. While he’ll be the first to acknowledge he didn’t play the way he wanted to, it was a tough situation for him to enter – starting a playoff game on a week’s notice at Lambeau Field against a very good team. In addition, Webb isn’t the only player who would like a few moments back from Saturday’s game. But, as Frazier said following the game, that’s the plight of a backup quarterback in the NFL. It’s a tough job when your name is called.

I know in the middle of the season I asked about the Vikings looking for a new quarterback in the offseason. Now that we're here, I think Ponder really showed he's our man. He got us in the playoffs, and really proved how important he was last Saturday night without taking a snap. Now my focus turns to our biggest need. Is it wide receiver, defensive tackle or linebacker? I mention these positions because we are losing a few guys at each spot. Basically, I'm asking: What do you think we're going to do this offseason to become an elite team?
-- AJ Corso
Greenville, PA

It’s still too early for me to narrow my focus and identify specific areas of the team that need to be addressed this offseason. I’d rather let a few things simmer for a few weeks, get a good understanding of which players will hit free agency and which players remain under contract, and get a few pointers from people who know more about this process than me. In time, we’ll discuss this at length here on the various platforms of the Vikings Entertainment Network – that will be a lot of fun this offseason and I look forward to it.

With that being said, the Vikings do indeed have several key players in the spots listed by AJ who may not be back next season, for a variety of reasons. So, as is the case every offseason, there will be plenty of work that needs to be done in order for this Vikings team to take a step forward in 2013. I think the best place to get that work done is in the draft. Free agency can be used to supplement the offseason effort to improve the talent level on the roster, but draft picks are the currency of the NFL. They are the bloodlines of an NFL team. The Vikings had a strong draft in 2012 and that class has already begun to pay dividends for the organization. It would be great to see Spielman and Co. follow up that incredibly strong 2012 draft class with another strong effort in 2013.

What are the chances the Vikings go out and get a big wide receiver this offseason during free agency? Say someone like a Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace.
-- Dustin F.
Graham, NC

I’m not sure if the Vikings will pursue a big name at wide receiver in free agency or not. Certainly there will be several high-profile receivers available, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for the Vikings. They could be, but they might not be, either. What seems certain is that the Vikings will address the wide receiver position in one way or another this offseason, especially with a few names on the current roster not under contract for 2013. My guess is Spielman will look to the draft as the primary way to address the wide receiver position, but I also would not count out the possibility of re-signing players currently on the team and/or looking to the open market to find a proven commodity, whether it’s Bowe, Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, Wallace or someone else.

Do you expect Antoine Winfield back next year? I'm questionable of his return only because of his age.
-- Matthew D.

I don’t know what the team’s official stance is on this topic; perhaps Frazier will be asked at his end-of-season press conference on Tuesday. But Winfield was quoted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune following Saturday’s loss in Green Bay as saying the following:

“Without a doubt. I’ve got to get 15 (seasons) in. That’s a good number.”

Winfield is 35 years old and has completed 14 NFL seasons. He certainly has the right to change his mind on this topic, but as of right now it’s clear that Winfield plans to be back. He had a solid season in 2012 and stayed healthy up until his hand injury at the end of the regular season.

I saw a play last night that looked like Harrison Smith was injured really badly. Is there any update on his injury?
-- Chris L.

This is another question that will be better-answered by Frazier at his end-of-year press conference on Tuesday. Following the game on Saturday night, though, Frazier was asked about Smith and he pointed out that Smith was able to return to and finish the game. So that’s good news. Unless something unforeseen has developed between then and now, it appears as if Smith escaped serious injury.

Is Everson Griffen ready to take over a starting role?
-- Connor L.
Richmond, VA

It’s certainly looking more and more that way. He had a career-high 8.0 sacks this season, and he had perhaps the best game of his young career at the biggest moment of his career – 3.0 sacks in Week 17 against Green Bay. You have to love it when a player puts forth his best performance at the most important time of the season.

The tough part for Griffen is that he has two very good defensive ends ahead of him on the depth chart. Whether he becomes a starter on this team will be a question that’s answered in time. What we know right now is that Griffen is good enough to play regularly for the Vikings defense, and that’s what I anticipate seeing in 2013 – Griffen on the field regularly. One could even argue that Griffen is more effective in his current role than he would be as a starting defensive end. In his current role, Griffen does not play the majority of snaps, but he is ultra-productive for the snaps he does play because he has fresh legs. Also, Griffen is a versatile player in his current role because he can be on the field in Robison’s place at left defensive end, or he can slide inside and play defensive tackle if the Vikings want to have Griffen, Jared Allen and Robison on the field at the same time.

I just want to express how proud I am of our Vikings this year. From Adrian Peterson's unbelievable season, to Blair Walsh's historic season, to the vastly improved play of our defensive backfield and offensive line, this has been such a successful year for us. Our whole team has come together and given us a lot to celebrate. I especially loved going 4-2 in the final six weeks of the season against very, very tough teams. Wow! That was AWESOME! Congratulations and kudos to everyone on the team – coaches, players and administration. We have so much to be proud of and even more to look forward to. Thank you for a great season.
-- Dares
Burleson, TX

Well said, Dares.

Thank you, Vikings. Thank you, Wilf family. I just wanted to say thank you for giving us a year of pleasant surprises. I cannot wait until next year’s Vikings team takes hold of the NFC North. Skol Vikings. Also, just wanted to say thank you to the Vikings Radio Network. Wobbs, great work, too. I’m looking forward to keeping up with Vikings football on vikings.com, so thank you for keeping us up to date. So until the preseason, Go Vikes! Oh, and congrats to Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh on great seasons.
-- Ron S.
Lakes area, MN

I appreciate the positive attitude and complimentary sentiments. One thing I’d add to Ron’s summary of a great season for the team is that it was a great season overall for the organization and the fan base. New stadium legislation was passed earlier in the year, and then a successful regular season ensued thanks to great individual performances, the growth of our quarterback and coaching staff, and the contributions of what looks to be a tremendous class of draft picks from 2012. Things are looking up for the Vikings and their great fans.

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